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Top 5 Comfort Foods That Also Aid Digestion

7 minute read

Comfort foods usually mean 'bad for you' and yet they're the foods we love the most. Cheese, cream, butter, oil and heart-warming carbs are just what you need on those really cold days or when life just has you down.

As you get older and your health starts to become a priority, comfort foods seem to become more like contraband. So many foods cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive problems and many of them are present in our favorite comfort food dishes.

Foods to Watch Out For

The mild symptoms of an upset stomach or unhappy digestive tract are gas and bloating, but you can also experience constipation, heartburn and diarrhea. Continued exposure to these foods can cause permanent damage to the lining of your intestinal walls.

The excess inflammation that results is linked to serious health complications and disease. The best way to avoid these is to avoid the foods that cause the irritation in the first place.

Chocolate: There is just enough caffeine present in chocolate to trigger heartburn symptoms and because it is a diuretic, you end up with looser stools. When you do have a craving for chocolate, choose dark chocolate with at least 60% cocoa content because it contains polyphenols, which can slow GI function.

Processed foods: Soda, white bread and potato chips can all increase your risk of diabetes type II as well as cause bloating, cramping and other intestinal problems. If you're not able to cut these from your diet, then be sure to combine them with lean protein and healthy fats to help aid their digestion.

Artificial sweetener: People opt for this as a way to cut calories but they contain partially digested sugars, which promote gas and diarrhea. It is better to choose natural sweeteners such as honey or agave nectar.

Spicy foods: Whether curry or buffalo wings, spicy food triggers heartburn Following a spicy meal with yogurt is a great way to cool the digestive tract and the probiotics help with digestion.

| Related: 11 Foods Rich In Gut-Supporting Digestive Enzymes |

Fresh fruit and vegetables: Usually we are told to eat more of these foods, which is ideal because of the numerous nutrients they contain  However, some people have trouble digesting raw fruits and vegetables. They contain a lot of insoluble fiber which can cause intestinal upset, so cooking them may be the best way to allow for easier digestion.

Greasy or fried foods: Foods high in saturated fat are difficult to digest, can make you feel uncomfortably full and increase the chances of acid reflux.

Coffee: People use it for energy daily, but the caffeine is not your GI tract’s friend at all.  It may stimulate the mind but it also stimulates your stomach acid, which increases inflammation and heartburn.

Acidic foods: Many citrus fruits are great for your health, but they do contain a lot of acid, which can increase reflux and GERD. If you do decide to eat acidic foods, be sure it is not on an empty stomach.

Give In To the Cravings

1. Meatloaf

Given that beef is harder on the digestive system than other meats, people avoid meatloaf.  However, by making it with ground chicken or turkey instead, you can easily solve that dilemma.  These meats contain less fat so are easier to digest and you still get a good dose of protein. Use egg whites only to keep the overall fat content within reason and use chives instead of onions. In fact, you can add any vegetable to add flavor and density. Finishing off with tomato sauce provides a perfect serving of cancer-fighting lycopene, so feel free to pour it on.

2. Soups and Chili

When it is cold and gloomy outside, a bowl of soup or chili can really hit the spot. The good news is that you don’t have to have a heavy or rich creamy soup to get that comforting feeling.  Instead of using cream, try adding 2% milk and add pureed beans as a thickener. The beans not only help provide protein and aid digestion, but give that full feeling without the bloat. Use lean proteins in your soup and chili instead of bacon or beef. Additionally you can add barley for texture, which has fewer calories than beans.

3. Macaroni and Cheese

Adults and kids love macaroni and cheese. The warm and gooey meal makes you feel warm all over like a cozy blanket. Unfortunately, cheese and pasta is not everyone’s best friend. When you use wheat-free pasta or quinoa pasta, the extra fiber actually aids your digestion. Cut the amount of cheese used in half by adding pureed butternut squash for fewer calories and extra vitamin A.  You can also mix in some pureed sweet potato and top with chopped walnuts to boost heart health.

| Related: Celiac Sufferers Indulge with Gluten-Free Soba Noodle Salad |

4. Personalized Pizza

Everyone loves a good pizza, so it will make you happy to know that your favorite food can be guilt-free. Pizza is actually a great way to deliver healthy foods; just think of all the nutritious vegetables you can add as toppings. As a base, use whole-wheat flour flatbread, tortillas, or English muffins. Use as many colorful toppings as you can, and instead of cheese try a roasted garlic and butter drizzle, which is much healthier and easier on your GI tract.  

5. Wheat Free Chicken Pot Pie

A warm pot pie is basically a hug in a bowl on a wintery day. They are often criticized for being too heavy and of course the crust may not be GI friendly. Traditionally, pot pies are loaded with fat which is not great for digestion, but there are ways around this. You can make a crust with wheat-free flour and a homemade chicken stock  Don’t add the onions because these are a source of fermentable fiber, which causes gas and bloating. Use cornstarch instead of flour to thicken the filling and include as many fresh vegetables as you can fit to fill the pie.

The Bottom Line

Your favorite foods don’t have to be ‘bad’, they just need a little tweaking. It's easy to alter any recipe once you know which foods to avoid and which ones to increase. There is always an alternative out there so don’t ignore your cravings. When you need comfort you can now head into the kitchen and whip up any of the classics without feeling guilty.

Read Next >>>  Zesty Greek Chicken, Lemon, and Rice Soup

  1. http://www.landomoms.com/eating-living-well/crave-worthy-better-for-you-comfort-food
  2. https://www.cookforyourlife.org/the-comfort-food-connection/
  3. https://www.everydayhealth.com/digestive-health-pictures/stomach-friendly-comfort-food.aspx
  4. http://www.eatthis.com/foods-that-cause-inflammation/